Vint Cerf, the chairman of the ICANN board, will step down next month in Los Angeles, at the corporation's annual meeting. We look at how he could be replaced, and by whom.
ICANN board chair Vint Cerf is stepping down this November after 8 years
Since being nominated to the ICANN board in 1999, Vinton G. Cerf has played a starring role as both its leader and emblematic spokesperson.
Cerf, sometimes revered as an Internet god, is one of the web's "founding fathers". He helped create the key TCP/IP protocol and over the years has been a recipient of many prestigious awards and prizes for his contribution to the Internet's existence.
Initially, as ICANN chair, Cerf brought credibility to an organisation that badly needed it. During Stuart Lynn's tenure as ICANN chief, up until 2003, Cerf was often seen as softening Lynn's intransigence.
Since Paul Twomey has taken over, the mood at ICANN has changed dramatically thanks to a more open CEO who simply appears less divisive.
Cerf and Twomey seem to have gelled well, although ironically in the light of the current CEO's unquestionable political prowess, it is now Cerf who can at times appear too rigid.
Still, Cerf is an asset of extreme value to ICANN. Maybe the man is too iconic, because no-one at ICANN seems to have really planned for that time after he's gone.
A time now coming up fast. Cerf's current term ends at the next annual meeting being held from October 29 to November 2nd in Los Angeles.
So how do you replace a legend?
In ICANN's case, candidates for the job of chairman can only come from the board. Domaines.Info has learned that three board members might be interested: Roberto Gaetano, current vice-chair, Peter Dengate Thrush and Steve Crocker.
Gaetano, an Italian, has extensive experience of both ICANN and the domain name industry. He speaks five languages and if chosen, could be ICANN's way of sending the message that it has become a truly global agency and wants to come out from under the US Department of Commerce's shadow.
Dengate Thrush is a lawyer from New Zealand. He too has a lot of ICANN experience and is a respected member of the national registry community. Indeed, he was appointed to the board by the ccNSO (Country Code Names Supporting Organization).
Steve Crocker has "founding father of the Internet" credentials. Like Cerf, he also worked on the creation of the Net. Crocker helped develop protocols for the Net's ancestor, the Arpanet. But Crocker is not a full member of the board. He acts as liaison to ICANN's Security and Stability Advisory Committee and is a non-voting board member.
Crocker was expected to be nominated to the board outright in the Nominating Committee's latest round of selections. But these have just been released and Crocker isn't one of the three new board members named.
For any organisation, handling the transition from a leader as strong and charismatic as Vint Cerf is never easy. The preferred solution to such a difficult problem is often an interim one.
Will ICANN try this? Gaetano, Dengate Thrush and Crocker each have a lot to offer in specific areas. But no one candidate combines as many plus points as Cerf did.
So one possible compromise could be a kind of "three-way split" of responsibilities between the candidates, making sure that their respective qualities come to the fore… while giving ICANN more time to find its next Vinton G. Cerf.
We won't have long to wait before finding out the specifics of how ICANN will handle Cerf's replacement. The board will vote in a new chair during an open session planned for November 2nd, at the conclusion of the LA meeting. We'll be there.